Sunday, October 20, 2013

Overcoming Addictions, a web-based application, & SMART Recovery: Outcomes of a randomized clinical trial

This week's entry comes from Dr Reid K Hester, PhD. He is Director of the Research Division at Behavior Therapy Associates, LLC, where they have been conducting some exciting new research using a web-based application, Overcoming Addictions. Thank you, Dr Hester, for the guest post:

Overcoming Addictions, a web-based application, & SMART Recovery: Outcomes of a 
randomized clinical trial

My research staff and I recently published the early outcomes of a new web app, Overcoming Addictions in the Journal of Medical Internet Research ( Overcoming Addictions (OA, is an abstinence-oriented, cognitive behavioral program based on the protocol of SMART Recovery. SMART Recovery ( is an organization that has adapted empirically supported treatment strategies for use in a mutual help framework with in-person meetings, online meetings, a forum and other resources.

A firm believer of “In God we trust, everyone else has to show their data,” we evaluated the effectiveness of OA and SMART Recovery (SR) with problem drinkers in a randomized clinical trial. We recruited 189 heavy problem drinkers primarily through SMART Recovery’s web site and their online and in-person meetings. We randomly assigned them to: (1) OA alone, (2) OA+ attend SMART Recovery meetings (OA +SR), or to (3) attend SMART Recovery meetings (SR) only. Outcome measures included self-reported percent days abstinent, mean drinks per day when they did drink , and alcohol/drug related consequences. We also interviewed significant others to corroborate the participant’s self-report.

We predicted that: (1) All groups would reduce their drinking and alcohol/drug related consequences at follow-up compared to their baseline levels; (2) the OA groups would reduce their drinking and alcohol/drug related consequences more than the control group (SR).

There were several striking features of our participants. First, 60% of them were female. While this is consistent with the clinical trials of our other web applications like the Drinker’s Check-up ( and Moderate Drinking (, it is significantly more than what one would predict given the prevalence of problem drinking in women versus men (35 vs. 65% respectively) in the epidemiological data. Second, this was a highly educated group with an average of 16 years of education. Third, while these folks were not seeking formal treatment, they had a level of alcohol problems comparable to the outpatient arm of Project MATCH.

At the 3 month follow-up both the intent-to-treat analyses and the actual use analyses showed highly significant improvement from baseline to follow-ups.  Mean within-subject effect sizes were large (d > .8) overall. There were, however, no significant differences between groups. Participants in all groups significantly increased their percent days abstinent from 44% to 72% (P<.001), decreased their mean drinks per drinking day from 8.0 to 4.6 (P<.001), and decreased their alcohol/drug-related problems (P<.001) by about 50%. These are clinically meaningful improvements in outcomes.

These outcomes indicate that both our Overcoming Addictions web app and attending SMART Recovery meetings and using their resources online ( were effective in helping people recover from their problem drinking.

These graphs reflect outcomes of the actual use analyses.

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